White Palms

I just watched a movie where I couldn’t understand half of it and I still thought it was pretty good. Half of the movie is in English and the other half is in Hungarian.

It depicts a young boy, Miklos Dongo training competitively for gymnastics in Hungary in the 80s. The coach is extremely abusive, hitting kids with a sabre, sitting on them and hitting them. I’m pretty sure this still happens in many places and sports. The kid’s parents are no help, also something that is real today with fame hungry parents and he eventually runs away to join the circus.

Dongo somehow ends up in Calgary and it’s pretty neat seeing Calgary’s landmarks sprinkled in the movie. Dongo takes a job as a gymnastics coach. There’s a lot of random footage of the gym and him talking to the head coach, much of it seems unnecessary as paperwork for new jobs isn’t that interesting.  After filling out the paperwork and wandering the gym with odd camera angles he starts teaching. When he pushes a kid for picking on another kid though the parents demand that he be fired.This part really resonates with me because when working with kids you will get kids that are absolute terrors to everyone and their parents don’t care so you can’t really do anything. Rather weirdly instead of getting fired Dongo gets to coach the club’s best gymnast Kyle Manjak, played by Kyle Shewfelt a Calgarian and Olympic gymnast. Kyle seems determined not to do any gymnastics at all, instead he comes to the gym and sits around ignoring Dongo. I have absolutely no idea why a teenager would still go to the gym if they didn’t want to and his parents don’t seem to be present either. Anyways since Dongo can’t hit Kyle he finally decides to start training himself and Kyle follows suit. After one clip of this they both make it to Worlds and Kyle wins with Dongo finishing 3rd. Without saying good bye to Kyle, Dongo then goes on to Cirque Du Soleil where we are shown a long clip of him preparing for a show.

The movie skips back and forth between current time and Dongo’s past to reflect how Dongo’s past influences him in his current life coaching.

I really wish there could have been more exploration of the relationship between Kyle and Dongo and a lot more dialogue between them. The coach/athlete dynamic is usually pretty interesting. It also may have been helpful to understand what was being said in half of the movie. Overall the movie is a great concept and highlights the differences between North American and more communist/dictatorship sports training and how they can both fall flat.

If you want to watch it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkowL_xtnb0



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